|Industry||Real estate development|
|Fate||Acquired by National Kinney Corporation in 1971|
Uris Buildings Corporation was a New York City commercial real estate development company created by Harold and Percy Uris in 1960 from a predecessor private partnership. They retained 60% ownership in the corporation. One of the last buildings the brothers built together was the Uris Building housing the Uris Theater. Soon after Percy's death in 1971, Harold sold the corporation to National Kinney Corporation for $115 million, but the assets were soon foreclosed in the real estate market collapse of New York's 1973–75 recession.
Percy started the business in 1920 with his father Harris H. Uris (c. 1867–1945), a Lithuanian immigrant and former ornamental iron worker. The senior Uris, with his brothers, operated a large iron foundry that produced ornamental iron and included the New York City Subway among its clients. Percy graduated with a business degree from Columbia Business School in 1920 and went into partnership in 1925 after Harold graduated with a degree in civil engineering from Cornell. The brothers first focused on residential development, including emergency housing during World War II. They were successful during the 1920s and early 30s building numerous buildings in that time frame, but struggled during the great depression. They resumed apartment construction in 1937 with 2 Sutton Place and 930 Fifth Avenue in 1939. Few other prominent New York City builders of the 1920s boom were still active after the war. They stopped building apartments in 1950, pulling out due to dissatisfaction with rent controls that were imposed during war but never discontinued. After that, they concentrated on commercial real estate development projects. They owned their developments personally until they incorporated in 1960 forming Uris Buildings, a public company. The offering of stock provide the financial capital for even larger projects.
From 1945 to 1971, Uris Buildings and its predecessor build over 13,000,000 sq ft (1,200,000 m2) of office space in Manhattan. By 1969, it was the largest publicly owned investment builder, with the brothers retaining 60% ownership.
Percy handled most financial aspects of the business, such as buying and selling property, negotiation of loans, financing, rental pricing, and profit calculation. Management of construction activity was primarily the realm of Harold. Uris frequently used Emery Roth & Sons as architect.
Projects outside of New York included the Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC that was built with five stories underground in order to have the desired space while conforming to the district's height restrictions. In Philadelphia, Uris built the first modern building in the city's central business district redevelopment known as Penn Center in 1953–1954.
The company was reported to be valued at over $600 million in 1972.
Uris Brothers developments were not architecturally imaginative or sophisticated. The company was focused on creating large profitable spaces at low cost. Famous real estate investor Harry Helmsley credits Uris with "having a profound effect on shaping the Park Avenue skyline above 45th Street".
New York's Park Avenue north of 45th St. is the location of the Park Avenue Tunnel which carried the New York Central and New York, New Haven, & Hartford tracks through Manhattan to Grand Central Terminal. Buildings on Park Ave near the terminal were successfully built over the tracks, which run in a double-deck subterranean steel structure, in the 1920s. Uris was the first to build in this manner post-war when it was much more challenging due to desire for much higher buildings, and much denser rail traffic which could not be interrupted during construction. In 1955, Uris demolished an apartment building at 300 Park and replaced it with the glass and aluminum sheathed Colgate-Palmolive Building. The building was financially successful because analysis by structural engineer James Ruderman determined that some below-grade structural columns of the old building, which threaded through the track structure to bedrock 50 feet (15 m) down, could be reused significantly reducing cost. The success of the project led Uris to purchase air rights over the tracks at 320 and 350 Park. Other developers soon followed and several more buildings were then built over the tracks.
In 1953, drawings for the Three Penn Center building, designed by Emery Roth & Sons, were released. The design was viewed critically and called an "unremarkable twenty-story slab". Then Yale School of Architecture professor Louis Kahn said an architectural student would receive a failing grade for such a project. Arthur C. Kaufmann, CEO of Gimbels in Philadelphia and member of a Citizens' Advisory Committee for the project disavowed it. Architectural Forum said it was "third-rate architecture". Uris ignored the criticism and proceeded with their plans. Mayor Joseph Clark said the building did not conform to the Penn Center plan and insisted that Uris submit the building plans for review by the city Art Commission. The Art Commission had authority over buildings in some parts of the city, but not Penn Center. Uris stalled and eventually said the structural steel had already been ordered so no changes were possible.
Three years later, while Three Penn Center was under construction, Uris released plans for Two Penn Center, its second building in the project. This building was considered as bad as the first building. The Board of Design realized Uris would not improve the aesthetics of the building unless forced and recommended changes to make the building more attractive. This building was under authority of the Art Commission due to its location near the scenic Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The Art Commission, who did not want to replicate the architecture of Three Penn Center, reached agreement with Uris that steel would not be ordered until the commission approved the plans. In spite of the agreement, Uris again claimed the steel was ordered and the design could not be changed. The commission gave up trying to oppose Uris.
|Name (original)||Address (NYC unless noted)||Alt Name||Year||Type||Notes|
|Court Square Building||2 Lafayette Street||1926||Residential|
|1 University Place||1 University Place||1929||Residential|
|Dixie Hotel||250 West 43rd Street||Hotel Carter||1930||Hotel|
|Hotel St. Moritz||50 Central Park South||Ritz Carlton||1932||Hotel|
|2 Sutton Place||2 Sutton Place||1938||Residential|
|930 Fifth Avenue||930 Fifth Avenue||1940||Residential|
|880 Fifth Avenue||880 Fifth Avenue||1948||Residential||Their last residential building|
|55 Water Street||55 Water Street||1972||Office Building||Their last major building|
World's largest office building in 1972
|American Tobacco Company Building||245 Park Avenue||American Brands Building
Bear Sterns Building
|JC Penney Building||333 W 33rd Street||Pennview Hotel||1925||Office Building||JC Penney purchased a different building in 1977|
|ITT Building||75 Broad Street||1928||Office Building||Millennium High School now located on 13th floor|
|RCA Communications Building||60 Broad Street||1961||Office Building|
|Uris Building||1633 Broadway||Paramount Plaza||1971||Office Building||Location of Uris Theatre, now Gershwin Theatre|
|1301 Avenue of the Americas Building||1301 Avenue of the Americas||Calyon Building, Crédit Lyonnais Building, Crédit Agricole CIB Building, RJR Nabisco Building, JC Penney Building||1964||Office Building||Not to be confused with the 1925 JC Penny Building|
|New York Hilton||1335 Avenue of the Americas||1964||Hotel|
|Look Building||488 Madison Avenue||1950||Office Building||National Register of Historic Places listed|
|380 Madison Avenue||380 Madison Avenue||1953||Office Building||previously a Ritz-Carlton hotel|
|Colgate-Palmolive Building||300 Park Avenue||1955||Office Building|
|575 Madison Avenue||575 Madison Avenue||1950||Office Building|
|485 Lexington Avenue||485 Lexington Avenue||1956||Office Building|
|2 Broadway||2 Broadway||1959||Office Building|
|850 Third Avenue||850 Third Avenue||1961||Office Building|
|Manufacturers Hanover Trust Building||350 Park Avenue||1962||Office Building|
|Sperry Rand Building||1290 Avenue of the Americans||1962||Office Building|
|111 Wall Street||111 Wall Street||Citibank Building||1966||Office Building|
|Harper & Row Building||10 53rd Street||1972||Office Building|
|Hilton Washington||1919 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
|Three Penn Center||1515 Market Street
|Two Penn Center||1500 JFK Boulevard
|Blue Hill Plaza||Pearl River, New York||Office Building|